Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-66
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-66

  04 Mar 2021

04 Mar 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Brief Communication: Thwaites Glacier cavity evolution

Suzanne L. Bevan1, Adrian J. Luckman1, Douglas I. Benn2, Susheel Adusumilli3, and Anna Crawford2 Suzanne L. Bevan et al.
  • 1Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP
  • 2University of St Andrews, College Gate, St Andrews KY16 9AJ
  • 3Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

Abstract. Between 2014 and 2017, ocean melt eroded a large cavity beneath and along the western margin of the fast-flowing core of Thwaites Glacier. Here we show that from 2017 to the end of 2020 the cavity persisted but did not expand. This behaviour, of melt concentrated at the grounding line within confined sub-shelf cavities, fits with prior observations and modelling studies. We also show that acceleration and thinning of Thwaites Glacier grounded ice continue, with an increase in speed of 400 ma−1 and a thinning rate of 1.5 ma−1, between 2012 and 2020.

Suzanne L. Bevan et al.

Status: open (until 01 May 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-66', Anonymous Referee #1, 07 Apr 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-66', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 Apr 2021 reply

Suzanne L. Bevan et al.

Suzanne L. Bevan et al.

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Short summary
The stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet depends on the behaviour of the fast-flowing glaciers, such as Thwaites, that connect it to the ocean. Here we show that a large ocean-melted cavity beneath Thwaites Glacier has remained stable since it first formed implying that, in line with current theory, basal melt is now concentrated close to where the ice first goes afloat. We also show that Thwaites Glacier continues to thin and to speed up and that continued retreat is therefore likely.